Retirement – The Psychological Journey

Retirement is a solo journey. This is a period of  personal transformation, requiring a  psychological re-orientation.

It is a psychological journey with feelings not unlike those experienced in marriage and divorce.

On the big day of the retirement party, all you may remember are smiles, handshakes and good wishes as colleagues see you off. So, you are off to your honeymoon.

For the first time in life, you experienced total freedom. You are in the G0-Go stage. This is  a period when retirees get to do all the things that they wanted to do once they stopped working.

However, honeymoon cannot last forever! When it is over, the newlyweds will need to get down to the nitty-gritty of life, the business of living. Many retirees will find that they will have to deal with a feeling of let down. After all, retirement isn’t a permanent vacation; it also can bring loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness and disillusionment. You find yourself in a black hole and there is no compass to guide you.

Retirement involves discontinuing one’s identity and establishing a new one. The process can be painful. Who you are and how you define yourself in the last few decades will be forever changed at the point of retirement. The simple acts of changing your e-mail address, and returning your keys, computer and staff cards, registering yourself as retired members of professional societies could also be emotional moments. You are, in effect, wiping out your “being,” as a professional. It’s peeling off an identity. . . .  from an industry, a firm, or a personal work history . . . .  and entering a completely new chapter in life. Retirement is also a loss of routine; until a new routine is established.

In a way, retirement is like a divorce and breaking up is hard to do. There are very real emotional challenges in letting go of a career or work habits and  to accept that the relationships with your former colleagues and indeed, with you own self, have forever changed and the organization you worked for just moves on . . . . . the world still keep on turning, with or without you!

New and satisfying  answers to the identity questions must be found if the retiree is to satisfactorily close the chapter of work life. New purpose in life has to be defined. New and enjoyable life styles are to be established to replace the routine when the retiree is at work. There is no right way to retire. Retired colleagues I know of all seem to have finally found their way of coming to a new routine in life. The main key is to let go and move on. Of course, there are  some fairly key life changes and adjustments to make. It will take a while to get accustomed to a new life.

Finally, a new routine evolved. You do not have to go after things but things comes after you and the new landscape becomes familiar territory. You develop a new relationship with time and embrace every moment of it. You value the variable of meandering a bit in any given day, week, or month.  You are always making new plans, cultivating opportunities and exploring options . You continue to update these plans, recognizing that doing so is an important part of retirement. You are now happy that you have survived a divorce. . . . . . . .  you have successfully crossed the bridge from the world of  work to retirement!

Now is the time that you are free for authoring a new chapter of life that features the best you ‘ve ever been.

PS  Photo above shows suspension bridge crossing Bosphorous strait from Europe to Asia.